PD-0724-20 & PD-0725-20 09/16/2020
“The First Court erred by holding that a trial court cannot find a bond ‘insufficient in amount’ once a defendant has posted the bond. Whether the bond is ‘insufficient in amount’ is not a question of whether the defendant made a bond equal to the bail amount, it is a question of whether the required amount should be set higher.”
Gomez was arrested and charged by complaint with burglary of a habitation and assault of an individual with whom he had a dating relationship by impeding breath. A hearing officer set bail at $25,000 and $15,000, respectively. At his first court appearance, and after Gomez had posted bond, the district court found the amounts insufficient, revoked them, and set bail at $75,000 on each case. The district court granted a hearing on Gomez’s pretrial application for habeas corpus but denied relief.
Gomez appealed, and the court of appeals reversed. It held that the district court did not comply with Tex. Code Crim. Proc. art. 17.09, the statute that would permit it to invalidate a bond and require a second one. Section 3 says, inter alia, the judge or magistrate may do so if he “finds that the bond is defective, excessive or insufficient in amount, or that the sureties, if any, are not acceptable, or for any other good and sufficient cause.” The court of appeals noted that the district court made no finding “[n]or could it have done so” on this record, as there was no evidence on the factors that would permit increasing the amount of bail. It added that, because Gomez met the bond originally set, it is undisputed that the bonds were not “insufficient in amount.”
The State argues that interpreting “insufficient in amount” to refer to the amount paid rather than the amount set is absurd. If that were its meaning, satisfying the original bond would make it sufficient under art. 17.09 in every case, and the “excessive or insufficient” clause would be rendered meaningless. Instead, art. 17.09 codifies the trial court’s ability to reconsider the factors listed in art. 17.15 to determine whether the bond previously set is insufficient (or excessive) to give reasonable assurance of the defendant’s appearance while protecting the victim and community.